The story of Zeus and Hera isn’t your conventional love story. Zeus was notorious for courting countless women. But it was Hera the goddess of marriage, with whom he was enchanted.
He wanted to have her by his side as the queen of the gods as he ruled over the universe. Hera, however, had no intention of ever becoming Zeus’ wife. She rejected all the marriage proposals she received from him.
Nonetheless, he was relentless and formulated a plan that would see Hera soften her hard stance. One day, Zeus transformed himself into a rain-soaked helpless little bird whose sight was enough to melt even the iciest of hearts.
When Hera saw the little bird, she took pity on it. She took the little creature and nestled it in her bosom to dry it and give it warmth.
At that moment, Zeus transformed back into his true form, and Hera couldn’t help it. She fell in love with him. This time, when he asked her to be his wife, she obliged.
That marked the beginning of a vicious cycle of lust, infidelity, jealousy, and vengeance that would be the cornerstone of their relationship. Read on.
The Wedding of Zeus and Hera
Zeus and Hera’s marriage ceremony was the first of its kind in Olympia. It was hugely celebrated with lots of feasting and merriment at the Garden of the Hesperides.
All the deities were in attendance and they presented them with lots of magnificent gifts. Gaia, the earth goddess, and grandmother to the bride gifted Hera with an enchanted tree that when planted would produce exquisite golden apples.
Once the festivities came to an end, Zeus and Hera had a glorious wedding night that lasted a staggering 300 years. Together, the two love birds had three children: Ares the god of war, Eileithyia, the goddess of childbirth and Hebe, the goddess of youth.
The Beginning of Toxic Warfare
The honeymoon phase of their marriage was short-lived. The couple endured a rocky relationship which can be attributed to Zeus’ philandering ways.
No woman was off-limits to him. He had countless affairs with goddesses, nymphs and mortals alike. This turned Hera into a jealous, vengeful wife who spent all her time on Mount Olympus spying on her husband and plotting revenge against his lovers.
Her wrath wasn’t just limited to Zeus. She directed her anger to the offspring he had outside their marriage. Some of the notable affairs he had included:
Zeus and Callisto
Callisto was a nymph and the goddess Artemis’ hunting companion. Zeus seduced her and in the process, she fell pregnant.
When Hera found out, she was infuriated and transformed Callisto into a bear and tried to persuade Artemis to shoot her. Zeus intervened and sent Hermes to recover the child from her womb. He eventually transformed both mother and child into a constellation of stars to keep them safe from his wife’s wrath.
Zeus and Io
Io was yet another woman that Zeus fell in love with. She was a beautiful mortal girl who lived in Argos at the time. When Zeus laid eyes on her, he fell in love. So, he disguised himself as a cloud and seduced the young girl.
When Hera caught wind of this, Io suffered a lot of misery in the hands of Zeus’ wife. To keep her away from her husband, Hera turned the young mortal into a cow. And if that wasn’t enough, she sent a gadfly to sting her repeatedly.
Zeus and Alkmene
In Greek mythology, Alkmene was the mortal wife of Amphitryon. One day when her husband went to battle against the Taphians and the Teleboans, Zeus disguised himself by transforming into Amphityron and slept with her.
Their union resulted in a son – a demigod named Heracles. When Alkmene went into labor, Zeus made a great proclamation that the child who was to be born on that particular day would become the ruler of Mycenae.
Hera was exasperated when she found out that Zeus had once again stepped out of their marriage. So, she instructed Ilithyia, the goddess of childbirth to delay Alkmene’s birth for seven days and instead induce the wife of Sthenelus to have an early birth two months before her due date.
Sthenelaus’ son went on to become Mycenae’s ruler. However, that didn’t stop her from relentlessly persecuting Heracles.
Hell Hath No Fury
It wasn’t just Hera with a jealous streak in their marriage. When Ixion, the king of the Lapiths attempted to seduce Hera, Zeus found out and tricked him into making love to a cloud instead.
Zeus meted out his anger on Ixion by banishing him to the underworld where he would be tied to an ever-spinning wheel of fire for all eternity. Despite Zeus’ wandering eye, Hera remained fiercely loyal to him. While she may have had numerous opportunities to cheat on Zeus, she spent most of her time punishing the objects of his desires.
Two Can Play the Game
Metis, the goddess of wisdom, was Zeus’ first wife. According to a prophecy, she would bear two children. The first would be Athena and the second, a son who would be powerful enough to overthrow Zeus.
This made him very anxious. So, he hatched a plan to exterminate Metis. He tricked her, and she allowed him to turn her into a fly. He then swallowed her not realizing that she was already pregnant. As a result, Zeus would later give birth to a powerful daughter – Athena.
When Hera found out that Zeus gave birth to a child without her help, she impregnated herself in retaliation and gave birth to a son named Hephaestus. The boy was severely deformed and nowhere near as alluring as Athena was.
The relationship between Zeus and Hera had always been tumultuous. Zeus was consistently unfaithful, and Hera spent all her time exerting revenge on her husband’s mistresses and offspring.
The two also seemed to be in constant competition with each other. Even though their relationship was extremely volatile, they remained bound for eternity.